Neglected, Then Rebuilt
Neglected, then rebuilt
Imitation is the best form of flattery—and oftentimes a way to pay homage to something you respect. Franke Diamonds of Fort Worth, Texas, first got involved in trucks thanks to his father, Frank. Frank passed down a ’72 Datsun that his father, Robert, bought new. The Datsun had been a farm vehicle that was passed on from generation to generation, ending with Franke. By the time Franke got the Datsun, he was 15 years old, and the mini-truck had definitely seen better days. “The floor was completely rusted through,” Franke tells Truckin. “I had to tie a shoestring to the carburetor to give it gas.”
Although it was an honor to be the third generation to take ownership of this classic Datsun, it simply wasn’t safe to drive. The Datsun was used as a trade-in for a new truck straight from the dealership. For the next two years, Franke drove around in a newer truck until it was totaled in an accident one night in the rain. With Franke’s luck not being on his side, he decided to go a different route in order to make something special.
Sitting outside of an old run-down tire shop was an ’02 Dodge Ram 1500. The Dodge was originally built by Keith Sawyer and had been taken to many shows. The truck had gained notoriety from being in magazines and was a SEMA truck at one time, but now it sat dilapidated and needing some TLC. “I remember seeing it sitting there,” Franke says. “It was junkyard status with grass growing through the frame.” Of course, the truck didn’t run and the body needed attention, but Franke had his plan.
The plan was to bring the Dodge back to life and show respect to Keith by returning it to its former glory. After purchasing the fullsize Dodge and getting it back home, the first step was to get it running. The entire engine had to be removed and cleaned up, with Franke performing all the work himself. The air-ride suspension was in pretty good condition, so only minor alterations had to be made to get it road-ready. The fuel cell had to be rebuilt, and the entire body was sanded down to remove the worn-out paintwork.
Franke decided to honor Keith by contacting him and letting him know what he was doing. Keith walked him through how he had originally built it and how it looked in order to bring it back to life correctly. Jeremy Henline of Henline Custom Paint was given the honor to coat the Dodge the closest color to the original. Cory Hill from Custom Touch Auto Trim was next to get started on the cabin, converting everything to updated full custom. From there, Franke sent the truck to Hannah at True Grit Bed Liners to reshoot the bedliner.
“I could have built the Dodge Ram and changed it completely,” Franke says. “But I wanted to bring this truck back to life because of its popularity in the truck scene.” Keith was honored to see the final build once Franke had breathed some life back into it. Franke wishes to thank everyone who helped make this journey possible and especially gives thanks to his late grandfather, Robert, and father, Frank.